Okanogan County Fire District 6 is preparing to seek construction bids for a new fire station in Winthrop, a project that has been in some form of planning for more than a decade.
“We are just getting documents finalized, and hope to get it [request for bids] out in the next month,” said Chief Cody Acord.
The district plans to build an 11,954-square-foot fire station on a 5-acre parcel in the Horizon Flats neighborhood. The new facility will include six vehicle bays, a meeting room, a multipurpose room, a dormitory, a dining room, a kitchen, offices and space for firefighter training.
The total project cost, which includes site preparation and utilities, is estimated at slightly over $4 million, with about $2.7 million for the building construction. Voters in the fire district approved an increase in the district’s tax levy last May to support the new fire station.
The district received a $1.8 million grant last year from the Bruno and Evelyne Betti Foundation for vocational training for firefighters, and about $500,000 can be used for the station construction, Acord said. The district will also allocate money from its operating budget for the new building.
The district is working with an investment banking firm to arrange financing for the project, Acord said. If construction bids come in on budget, the district “would hopefully be starting this spring” and is “hoping for an 18-month period” to complete construction, he said.
Fire district officials have been involved in proposals and plans for a new station for more than 13 years. The new station would replace a 4,400-square-foot station on Englar Street that the district rents from the town of Winthrop. Fire officials have said for years that the district has outgrown that facility and the cramped quarters jeopardize firefighter safety.
In 2008, voters turned down a $5 million bond levy proposed by the district to build a station on property across from the Winthrop post office. A proposal developed in 2012 to build a 12,500-square-foot station at a cost of about $2.4 million drew public criticism as too expensive, and some people questioned whether the Horizon Flats property, located on a hill with a curving road, was the best location. A levy increase to fund the new station was defeated by voters in 2014.
The district has used a Spokane architectural firm, Watson & Herres, to develop plans for the 2012 fire station proposal and the current, slightly scaled-back version.
Acord said he’s heard that the costs of construction and building materials have increased over the past year, due to pandemic-related factors. On the other hand, “interest rates are still low,” he said. “It feels good to be at this point, because we’ve gotten funds secured, which we didn’t have before.”